The Espresso portafilter – an unassuming handle that so often goes overlooked – is one of the most vital components in crafting an exceptional espresso.
Choosing the right portafilter handle and basket can make all the difference in the flavor and consistency of your espresso shot.
In this guide, I will explain everything you need to know about Espresso portafilter baskets. Whether you’re a home barista or a professional, this guide will help you find the perfect portafilter basket to take your espresso game to the next level.
- The Espresso Portafilter baskets hold the coffee grounds and directly impact the extraction and flavors of the shot
- Non-pressurized baskets allow more flavor control but require skill. Pressurized baskets are more beginner-friendly.
- Naked portafilters help diagnose issues and improve the technique. Spouted portafilters reduce messes and are perfect for high-volume workflow.
- Ridged baskets can easily fit in the Portafilter while ridgeless allow easy knockouts of spent pucks after extraction.
- For the best espresso shot, use a non-pressurized, bottomless, and ridgeless portafilter.
What is a Espresso Portafilter
A portafilter is a small handle with a basket-like compartment that holds the finely ground coffee used to brew espresso.
The design of the Espresso portafilter directly affects how water flows through the coffee grounds during extraction, making it crucial for the perfect shot of espresso.
Portafilter baskets are usually made of stainless steel material and come in various sizes and designs.
There are different sizes of baskets available, such as the single shot basket, double shot basket, and triple shot basket. Additionally, the basket’s shape and hole pattern can impact the flow rate of water through the coffee, affecting the overall extraction process.
A skilled barista often chooses the right portafilter basket based on factors such as the type of coffee, the desired flavor profile, and the type of espresso machine.
Spouted And Naked Portafilters
Spouted and naked portafilters are two types of espresso portafilters that differ in their design.
A bottomless portafilter allows you to see the entire espresso process from the beginning to the end. It’s like taking the scenic route through the espresso-making process, where you can admire the beauty of the crema.
If you are serious about Espresso go NAKED!
Using naked portafilters can help you step up your brewing game by letting you watch the extraction process as it happens.
If there is a nice even stream of coffee coming out of the exact middle of the portafilter basket you are doing all good.
The presence of spurts or dual streams from the bottomless portafilter basket indicates espresso channeling, and you can adjust the tamping pressure or grind size distribution in that case.
Traditionally, the most commonly used portafilter is the spouted portafilter, which has a spout at the bottom that allows the espresso to flow into a cup.
The spout helps to distribute the espresso evenly and reduces the risk of spills or messes.
Although you can clean spouted Portafilters more easily, and there is no chance of coffee spilling, you are unable to see the brewing process and diagnose a channeling problem.
The double-spouted portafilter is commonly used in busy cafes to prepare two single shots of espresso at once, allowing the baristas to meet larger demand.
Different sizes of Portafilter Baskets
Portafilter basket sizes vary according to shot volume. The most common basket sizes are single, double, and triple shots.
Most commercial and home Espresso machines come with single and double-shot filter baskets, triple-shot baskets are very rarely used.
- Single Basket: This is the smallest filter basket, which holds around 7-10 grams of coffee for a standard espresso shot of 1-1.25 ounces.
- Double Basket: A double shot basket typically holds around 14-18 grams of coffee and is designed to make a double shot of espresso. This is the most used filter basket, especially in the USA.
- Triple Basket: Triple shot baskets are typically used in commercial-grade espresso machines and are less commonly found in home espresso machines. It can accommodate around 20-22 grams of coffee.
Also read: Single vs Double Espresso
Why Does portafilter basket size matter?
When brewing Espresso most of the resistance is created by the puck of coffee grounds.
But the filter basket is also responsible for creating resistance. The number of holes and the size of the holes in the basket influence the force of the pressurized water flowing through it.
In other words, 12 grams of coffee will require more resistance from the basket while 16 grams will require less. If you keep the basket the same, and brew 16 grams of coffee, you would have to grind it much coarser to maintain a comparable flow rate and brewing time.
And coarser grind size can lead to other problems like too much acidic or watery tasting shot.
That’s why you should follow the amount mentioned on the filter basket. Dosing 9 grams of coffee in a double shot filter basket designed for 16 grams will not deliver the best-tasting shot and it will also result in a wet coffee puck.
And overloading the filter basket can result in Espresso channeling as the water naturally tends to follow the path of least resistance from the shower screen.
Pressurized And Non-Pressurized Filters
Espresso machines usually come with two types of filter baskets: pressurized and non-pressurized.
Non-pressurized portafilter Baskets
Non-pressurized portafilters are most commonly used in commercial espresso machines and require some practice and skill to use effectively.
If you want to level up your Barista skills and want the best-tasting shot of coffee always use Non-pressurized filter baskets.
One of the advantages of using a non-pressurized portafilter is that it offers more control over the brewing process, allowing the user to fine-tune the espresso flavor and tailor it to their preferences.
Non-pressurized portafilters require some practice and skill to use effectively, and the user must have a good understanding of the espresso brewing process to achieve consistent, high-quality shots of espresso.
Pressurized Portafilter Basket
The pressurized portafilter basket comes with entry-level espresso machines to create a pseudo crema layer. It is a good option for beginners but won’t result in a best-tasting shot of Espresso.
A pressurized filter basket does not rely on the coffee to build pressure. Instead, it only has one tiny hole for the coffee to exit. It ensures proper pressure is created in the basket regardless of tamping or grinding inconsistencies.
Pressurized portafilters have two walls with a small hole in the second wall that creates resistance in the brewing process, which helps to maintain a consistent pressure level.
This mechanism lets you brew espresso with pre-ground coffee, so you don’t have to go through the hassle of dialing in process.
If you take your Espresso seriously throw away the pressurized portafilter as soon as possible.
However, a pressurized filter basket can be a good option in three cases
- You are a complete beginner and don’t know anything about Espresso grind sizes
- You want just a drinkable espresso for now.
- You are using pre-ground coffee of ESE coffee pods.
For serious coffee lovers like me; Do yourself a favor and invest in a good quality coffee grinder and Always use non-pressurized portafilter baskets.
Ridged vs Ridgeless portafilter baskets
We’ve now covered all four types of portafilter baskets, but there’s more to it: ridged and ridgeless baskets.
Ridged baskets have a small indentation that radiates along the whole circumference of the basket. Their advantage is that the ridges help to hold the basket firmly in place inside the portafilter as we knock out the puck.
In Ridgedless baskets, there are no indentations and the basket is held in place by a metal spring present inside the Portafilter handle.
Ridgeless baskets are easier to clean and knock out the Pucks more efficiently. With a Ridge basket, there is always a chance that the coffee grounds will accumulate around the edges and you have to clean it more thoroughly.
If you use both double and single baskets regularly, buy a ridged double basket and a single basket. If you mostly use a double basket and rarely use a single basket, buy a ridgeless basket and a spring that you can easily change before making a shot.
The Diameter of Portafilters
Portafilter sizes change depending on the type of espresso machine and the manufacturer.
58mm is the most common Espresso Portafilter size, and they are used by many commercial and high-end home espresso machines.
Although these are less frequent, some machines may employ a smaller or bigger diameter, such as 54mm, 51mm, or 60mm.
What you need to know about the portafilter sizes is that every 58 mm filter basket can fit in every 58 mm portafilter handle. And the other sizes 54, 60, or whatever size it is will not fit into a 58 mm portafilter. So you must keep the size in mind while buying a portafilter.
Ensure the portafilter size matches the espresso maker and always confirm compatibility by reviewing the manufacturer’s specs for your machine and portafilter.
Looking for a new Espresso Portafilter? Here are some tips
If you’re in the market for a new portafilter, there are a few things to consider before making a purchase. Here are some tips to help you find the right one:
Choose the Right Size
The size of your portafilter may not be a huge concern since the diameter is typically standardized at 58 mm for commercial-style portafilers.
However, the group head of some manufacturers is only adaptable with certain sizes.
So it’s important to read the size of your machine carefully.
Material also Matters
The most common materials used for portafilter baskets are stainless steel and brass.
Stainless steel is a durable and corrosion-resistant material that is commonly used in portafilter baskets. It is easy to clean and maintain and can withstand high temperatures and pressure. These can also be easily replaced if needed.
Brass is another material commonly used in portafilter baskets. It is a dense and durable material that is excellent at retaining heat, which can help to improve the consistency of espresso shots.
Personally, I prefer Brass portafilter baskets as they offer greater consistency. Cheaper aluminum baskets are also available but I won’t recommend them.
The Orientation of Handle
It is also important to consider the angle of the portafilter’s handle. Portafilters are available in straight and angled shapes.
Straight Portafilter: In a straight portafilter, the handle is in line with the basket. Straight portafilters are more commonly used in home espresso machines, as they are typically smaller, widely available, and affordable.
Angled Portafilter: In an angled portafilter, the handle is at an angle to the basket. Angled portafilters are typically used in commercial espresso machines, as they provide better ergonomics and comfort for baristas who need to pull multiple shots of espresso in a row. Additionally, the angle of the handle can make it easier to tamp the espresso evenly and consistently.
I personally prefer an angled portafilter since it allows the filter basket to sit horizontally when placed on the surface, making tamping easier and more efficient.
- A single spout portafilter has one outlet for the espresso shot to flow through. For personal use in home settings, a single-spout portafilter is commonly used.
- A double-spout portafilter has two outlets for Espresso and is commonly used in commercial settings to prepare two espresso shots simultaneously.
The choice between a single and double spout portafilter will depend on the specific needs and preferences of the user. However, I would recommend you go with a naked portafilter instead.
So that’s all you need to know about the types of portafilter handles and baskets. I hope this guide has answered all your questions and now you can easily choose the best Espresso portafilter for yourself.
Investing in a high-quality portafilter basket can significantly improve the flavor of your espresso shot.
Last but not least, if you are serious about espresso, get yourself a Non-pressurized and Naked portafilter basket made of brass or steel.
How do you know what size portafilter you have?
Most Baskets are labeled with sizes, you can find that at the bottom or sides of the basket. However, if you can’t find it you can use a measuring tape across the inside of the empty basket. This will give you the size in mm.
Can you use any portafilter in any espresso machine?
Most portafilters can be used interchangeably on espresso machines with the same diameter and type of group head as most manufacturers adhere to standard sizing.
However, there are some variations in size, design, and locking mechanisms that can make some portafilters incompatible with certain machines.